A Preston-based charity aims to provide support and advice to people suffering from chronic pain, helping them to find new ways to release their endorphins.
SMILE (Self Motivation In Lasting Endorphins) provides a friendly environment of support and advice to members of all ages within the community suffering with chronic pain.
While acute pain is the normal sensation which alerts the body to an injury or illness, chronic pain is one that persists and carries on for longer than 12 weeks (often for months and even years) despite medication or treatment.
As a result, it can be accompanied by anger and depression, anxiety, loss of sexual desire, and disability.
Gwynneth Bennet, 64, secretary of the group, says: “SMILE is such a wonderful group, as inclusive as possible.
“We really have all sorts of people, of all ages, in our group.
“The thing with people suffering with chronic pain is that they might not want to make the effort to get out of their house, and they often suffer with depression or anxiety.
“SMILE aims to give them a reason to get out and to help with the pain, offering distractions and activities.”
SMILE started 18 years ago, as a support group for chronic pain sufferers with the help of the Pain Management Clinic at Preston Royal Hospital.
Since then, they have worked with ex-patients of the clinic and with chronic pain sufferers from all over Lancashire.
Thanks to word of mouth and to their efforts to raise awareness, the group is constantly growing.
Maureen Plaistowe, 76, a member of the group for 18 years, says: “I found a lot of companionship in this group.
“Even if you don’t turn up for one week or two, there’s someone from the group calling you on the phone and asking you how you are.
“It’s lovely to know that people in this support group care about you.
“We confide in each other but we don’t dwell on the problems that chronic pain is causing us.”
The group meets every Wednesday at St Martin’s Church Hall, in Fulwood, for a social gathering, relaxation exercises and several different kinds of massages, which are designed to reduce the pain.
Gwynneth, who joined the group to support a close friend suffering from chronic pain and later on experienced chronic shoulder pain herself, adds: “At SMILE, we are all on the same boat.
“There is no expectation to explain the pain as we are all faced with our own, and we also organise various events throughout the year to raise awareness about it.”
A group of students from University of Central Lancashire have shown support for the group as they took on the project of re-branding and rebuilding the charity’s website.
Gwynneth says: “I contacted UCLan on behalf of our charity last year to enquire if any students would like the experience of helping us with our SMILE website.
“They worked with us to set up our completely new website including our rebranding and as an initiative we felt the whole thing to be highly successful.
“We really appreciate the students’ hard work, enthusiasm and they were a pleasure to work with.”
The charity works closely with the management team at the Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) and they will have a stall at the Royal Preston Hospital on Friday, December 20, offering information, support and raising funds for their Christmas activities.
Last month, SMILE was represented on the NHS HARRI bus, a health and wellbeing engagement vehicle which enables the NHS staff and charities to travel around Lancashire to talk with communities and individuals.
Learn more about SMILE and how to get involved on: https://smilepreston.co.uk/